Appeal from the Circuit Court of Tazewell county; the Hon.
HENRY J. INGRAM, Judge, presiding. Reversed.
JUDGE CARROLL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT. Rehearing denied November 13, 1956.
This is an appeal from a decree of the Circuit Court of Tazewell County declaring void an election held pursuant to petitions for detachment and annexation of certain territory of a school district and perpetually enjoining the Board of Education of the annexing district from exercising jurisdiction over the areas affected by the annexation proceeding.
The action was brought by the Board of Education of Community Consolidated School District No. 606 in Tazewell County and thirty-seven residents and legal voters of said district. The Board of Community Unit School District No. 124 in Mason County, R.C. Theis, County Clerk of Tazewell County and a number of other parties were named defendants. However, the cause was subsequently dismissed as to all except the two defendants above named.
Prior to the institution of the detachment proceedings with which we are concerned on this appeal, Consolidated School District No. 606, to which we will refer as District 606, lay north of and adjoined District 124. District 606 maintained grades 1 to 8, inclusive, and District 124 maintained grades 1 to 12, inclusive. At an election held in District 606 on March 31, 1953, a proposition to annex all of said district to District 124 was defeated. Subsequently, there were filed with the County Superintendent of Schools certain petitions for an election on the proposition of detachment of two portions of the territory then embraced within District 606 and their annexation to District 124. At an election held on May 14, 1953, the proposition carried in both petitioning areas. This election was held pursuant to the provisions of Section 4B-6, Chap. 122, Illinois Revised Statutes, 1951.
One of the territories detached from District 606 referred to in the briefs as the "upper area" adjoins District 124 along a common boundary for about three quarters of a mile and contains approximately three sections including a part of Talbott's Subdivision, upon which the school building of District 606 is located. The other, or "lower area," has approximately seven miles of common boundary with District 124 and comprises about twenty sections north and west of said district.
The substantive allegations of the complaint are that the petitioners, in drafting the petitions for detachment of the two areas of District 606, disregarded the rights and interests of the remaining residents, voters and school children of the said district; that the lines of the petitioning area were so drawn as to exclude therefrom enough voters opposed to detachment of said areas to make it certain that the propositions would carry at the election; that the petitioners intentionally and without regard for the rights of landowners, tenants and school children, included farms in the area sought to be detached, but excluded the residences of the owners or tenants of such farms who were opposed to the detachment, thereby depriving such residents of the right to vote in the election; that the petitioners intentionally and with utter disregard for the rights of school children, residents and voters of District 606 included in the area sought to be detached the only schoolhouse and facilities located in said district; that if said school facilities are detached the property valuation remaining in District 606 would be insufficient to support a bond issue for the construction of a school building for use by said district and as a result the people thereof will be unable to conduct a school; that residences of persons known to be opposed to the detachment proceeding were excluded from the area sought to be detached and that the children of these residents will be obliged to travel many miles to a school in some other district; that after July 1, 1953, if the detachment of territory becomes effective, District 606 will have no school facilities; that there is no district other than District 124 to which the remaining portion of District 606 can be annexed; that the petitioners seek unlawfully and inequitably to force such remaining portions of District 606 to annex to District 124; that if the change of boundaries is permitted to stand the boundary lines of the two districts will be such as to render the same unreasonable, arbitrary, unjust, oppressive and inequitable.
It is further alleged in the complaint by way of conclusion, that the actions of the petitioners are such as to constitute an abuse of the power delegated to them by the legislature of the State of Illinois under the statute authorizing the detachment proceedings in question. The prayer of the complaint is that the Board of Education of District 124 be restrained from taking control of the territory detached from District 606; that the County Clerk of Tazewell County be enjoined from extending taxes levied by District 124 against the detached areas and that the election of May 14, 1953 be declared null and void.
The defendant Board of Education of District 124 moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that equity is without jurisdiction to determine an election contest and that the legality of the annexation of territories to a school district can be tested only by quo warrantor. This motion was denied and defendants ruled to answer. The complaint was later amended to include an allegation that the description of the "upper area" was void. The cause was referred for hearing to a Master who found that the detachment proceedings were void because of constructive fraud and an insufficient description of the "upper area" and recommended the entry of the decree to which we have previously referred.
In view of the conclusion reached herein, we refrain from exploring or commenting on the evidence in the record.
It is contended by defendants that only political rights are involved in this proceeding and therefore equity has no jurisdiction and that since plaintiffs seek to challenge the validity of the annexation and detachment of school territory the exclusive remedy available to them was quo warrantor.
If this contention be upheld, it will be unnecessary to consider other grounds for reversal which are urged. Accordingly, we first undertake determination of the question raised by such contention.
It is a generally well established and recognized rule in this state that the jurisdiction of a court of equity pertains only to the maintenance of civil, personal and property rights and that it has no jurisdiction over matters or questions of a political nature unless civil property rights are involved. Spies v. Byers, 287 Ill. 627; Miller v. City of Chicago, 348 Ill. 34; People v. Barrett, 203 Ill. 99; Fletcher v. Tuttle, 151 Ill. 41. With reference to that which is embraced within the terms "political rights" and "civil rights," Bouvier says:
"Political rights consist in the power to participate, directly or indirectly, in the establishment or management of government." "Civil rights are those which have no relation to the establishment, support or management of the government. These consist in the power of acquiring and enjoying property, of exercising the paternal and marital powers, and the like." (2 Bouvier's Law Dic. p. 485.)
The distinction between civil and political rights is lucidly pointed out by the court in Sheridan v. Colvin, ...